ST. LOUIS • Dozens of people marched downtown around Washington Avenue Friday evening in a peaceful protest against President Donald Trump.
About as many police officers were out along with the protesters, with bike patrol units keeping protesters to the sidewalks and patrol cars following.
Emily Davis said she was protesting Trump's "rhetoric of hate." She wore a shirt that read “A time comes when silence is betrayal and that time is now.”
“It's really important to do everything in my power to protest against the hate now in the highest office in the country,” she said. “As a white person I have to take responsibility because it's white people who historically have been the oppressors of people of color, and now we've endorsed white supremacy with Trump.”
Dhoruba Shakur, an activist who protested regularly in Ferguson in 2014, ironically wore a "Make America Great Again" hat — a trademark of Trump supporters — and carried an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle strapped around his back. Shakur, 26, said he has a permit for the gun.
Shakur said he was out to express his First and Second Amendment rights and to show distaste for Trump.
“He's not for the people,” Shakur said. "We need someone who walks and speaks in righteousness."
He said he carried the gun “to make sure nobody infringes on my First Amendment rights.”
“Sometimes police get forceful and harm people,” he said. “I carry it to make sure I'm not one of those harmed.
"If it's a lawful arrest I'll walk away peacefully, no problem – but I have a right by law to carry and a right to defend myself from those that would infringe on that right.”
The police response to the protest was "overdone," but the protest went without incident, Shakur said.
Police Chief Sam Dotson said it was not the first time police had encountered an armed protester.
“That's now the law in our state, and while I wish it wasn't, he has the right to carry," he said. "It's our job to make sure he has the right as long as it's done peacefully and isn't a threat to safety."
Dotson said the protest had gone without incident. Several passing pedestrians thanked the police for their service.
“I think the officers have done a good job doing everything they can to allow (the protesters) to have their voice heard,” Dotson said. “We're just here to make sure things are safe.”